6yo steals spotlight at budget reveal

Federal treasurer Jim Chalmers is greeted by his family as he finishes his speech for the 2023 federal budget in the House of Representatives in Parliament House, Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Dylan Robinson

An adorable moment between Jim Chalmers and his young daughter has been captured during budget night.

The Treasurer was under immense pressure on Tuesday as he handed down the government’s second budget in under a year.

The budget will see a much needed increase to JobSeeker payment and a small rise to rent assistance, while handing down a small but short lived surplus for the first time in 15 years.

After delivering his speech he was greeted by his family who were waiting for him in the House of Representatives gallery in Parliament House.

Dr Chalmers embraced his daughter Annabel, six, as his wife Laura watched on with a grin.

Jim Chalmers embraced his daughter Annabel, five, as his wife Laura watched on with a grin Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Dylan Robinson

It’s the second time young Annabel has been front and centre during a budget announcement. She was seated with her mother in the public gallery when Dr Chalmers delivered Labor’s first budget in October last year.

Dr Chalmers has described the budget as responsible, with an eye on not making inflation worse.

“The restraint we’ve shown and the investments in the supply side of the economy and the way we’ve targeted and staged our cost of living package is because inflation is the biggest challenge in our economy,” he told ABC after the budget.

“This budget has been carefully calibrated and carefully designed to take the pressure off the cost of living, not add to inflation.”

He defended the increase in the JobSeeker which was less than many had wanted, but was more than had been expected.

“We think we’ve struck the right balance.”

The centrepiece of this year’s budget is a major increase for Medicare, which was loudly applauded by the government benches when he announced it during the speech.

Dr Chalmers has pledged the “largest ever” increase to the bulk billing incentive in an effort to make GP appointments more affordable and ease pressure on emergency departments around the country.

The Albanese government will spend $3.5m to significantly increase these incentives to entice more GPs to offer free consultations to eligible patients.

Dr Chalmers said Australian families struggling with the cost of living crisis were being forced into a “lose-lose” choice between getting the medical help they needed or paying their bills.

His wife Laura watched on with a grin. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Dylan Robinson
Chalmers wave as he left the house. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Dylan Robinson
Annabel had a huge smile on her face on Tuesday night. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Dylan Robinson

“This robs parents of peace of mind; it puts families under strain,” he said.

“It means more problems go undiagnosed or untreated.”

The increased incentives will be paid to GPs who bulk bill 11.6 million eligible Australians including children under 16, pensioners and other concession card holders.

GPs will be able to claim the higher incentives for face-to-face consultations more than 6 minutes in length and certain telehealth consultations.

Bulk billing is when a doctor accepts a Medicare rebate from the federal government as a complete payment for a consultation and doesn’t charge patients an additional “gap” fee for the service.

GPs who bulk bill patients in the city will be paid a new incentive of $20.65 compared with the old rate of $6.60.

Regional GPs will receive a $31.40 incentive, up from $10.05.

In the most remote parts of Australia, the incentive will more than double from $12.70 to $39.65.

Chalmers is seen waving. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Dylan Robinson
Chalmers was all smiles on Tuesday night. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Dylan Robinson

An increase to the bulk billing incentive was a key demand from the Royal College of General Practitioners, one of two requests the government agreed to in this federal budget.

The RACGP was also successful in advocating for a Medicare rebate for GP consultations longer than 60 minutes, up from the previous limit of 40 minutes.

But Tuesday’s budget includes only a modest increase to Medicare rebates despite long-running pleas from doctors for a substantial boost to keep pace with inflation.

The RACGP has argued the rebates GPs receive from the federal government for their services are so low it is simply not possible to bulk bill patients in many cases.

Even Australians who usually pay for their GP appointments out-of-pocket may well have found the cost has gone up as they are charged higher gap fees as the cost of living crunch continues to bite.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher conceded on Tuesday the small increase to across-the-board Medicare rebates was a result of automatic indexation rather than any additional funding from the government.

She said the government chose strengthening bulk billing incentives as a priority investment it had “room to make” in the budget.

The increase to incentives should be seen in the context of a “major” health reform package included in the budget, she said.

Tuesday’s budget includes $5.7bn over five years as an initial investment to provide better access and more affordable carefor patients in response to the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce Report.

The report was handed down last year following an inquiry by a government-commissioned group of experts into the ailing Medicare system and the problems in general practice.